With this year's Mongol Derby starting today (9 August 2017), get up to speed on the facts and figures about this gruelling race
From an outsider’s perspective, horsey people are a pretty tough bunch. We think nothing of hopping back on board after taking a tumble, having our feet trampled on is par of the course and mucking out in arctic conditions is worth it for the highs of the summer.
But then there are the equestrians who take it to another level — the people who hunt side saddle, actually enjoy Irish hunt rides, ride around the Grand National for fun… or sign up for the Mongol Derby.
Today (9 August) marks the start of this year’s race. If you’re experiencing a pang of jealously, a surge of “I could do that”, here are a few things you should know first…
1. This is not your average sponsored ride
Dubbed “the longest and toughest horse race in the world”, the Mongol Derby is not for the faint-hearted. Over 10 days you will travel 1000km across the Mongolian steppe, recreating the world’s first long-distance postal transmission system set up by Chinggis Khaan in 1224.
2. And these are not your average steeds
A few hours in the saddle of your 16hh thoroughbred-cross is one thing. Thirteen hours in the saddle of a semi-feral Mongolian horse is quite another. “Whatever you do, don’t get off your horse. If you do, you won’t see it again,” warns Camilla Swift who took part in the race in 2010.
3. You’ll need some solid navigating skills
If you struggled to find your way around the Forest of Dean on your bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, this might not be the thing for you. With no marked course, the Mongolian landscape can start to look worryingly similar… in every direction.
4. Don’t expect your favourite cuisine to re-energise you…
Forget refuelling on a crispy-based margherita. Passing through each of the horse stations, where you will swap mounts, mutton and mares’ milk are more likely to be on the agenda.
5. …or a bed
Banish thoughts of kicking back in Egyptian cotton sheets. Take your pick between the moonlight or a canvas and felt tent.
6. …or a shower for that matter
Soaking aching muscles in a bath of bubbles will have to be put on hold.
7. It will take some serious fundraising
For the 2017 race, riders have had to get together just over £10,000 each.
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8. Swiftly changing you’re mind? Don’t. It will all be worth it in the end (if only for the stories you’ll have to tell)
“Don’t be put off by the tales of horrible food, minor injuries and semi-feral horses,” says Camilla Swift reassuringly. “If I could do it again, I would in an instant.”
Keep track of this year’s competitors by visiting theadventurists.com/#mongolderby/mongolderby17
For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday